Hope never abandons you, you abandon it

games, sto, zoso 2 Comments »

After hearing Tim & Jon talking about Star Trek Online on the rebooted How To Murder Time podcast (and Patrick Stewart talking about space exploration on The Infinite Monkey Cage), I thought I might get the old starship out of mothballs and boldy go where quite a lot of people have gone before but I haven’t been for a while. Melmoth brilliantly captured the problem of picking up old characters, and between space and ground hotbars, bridge officers, tactical kits and whatnot, none of which I could really remember, I wouldn’t have stood a chance in a fight with a Clanger, let alone a Klingon battle fleet. Fortunately Star Trek Online has a few nice low-key ways of getting back into the swing of things, such as Duty Officer missions.

Duty Officer missions concern the day-to-day management of a crew of hundreds that the TV series generally glossed over, apart from the classic episode “Annual Performance Evaluation Reviews on the Edge of Forever”; calibrating shields and weapons, hosting ambassadors, granting leave, searching for contraband, that sort of thing. Pack the crew off with a couple of clicks, they return in an hour or two with loot, brilliant.

After a couple of days I thought I really ought to leave Earth Spacedock, though, so with a bit of helpful advice I at least got some decent Bridge Officers slotted up to give USS Hope some useful combat abilities, and took a refresher on Space Combat Basics (1: point ship at enemy 2: mash ‘fire all weapons’ button) followed by Advanced Space Combat (3: point ship away from enemy and repeat step 2 with aft weapons) and Extremely Advanced Space Combat (4: press all number keys then Ctrl-all number keys to see if your Bridge Officers can do something helpful like buff your weapons or debuff enemy shields). There are many tactics and manoeuvres in the Star Trek canon but none really capture my Extremely Advanced Space Combat technique, so I might have to dub it The Zoso Manoeuvre:

“Mister Herring! Attack Pattern Omega. Ensign Izzard! Polarise the hull. Lieutenant Osho! Auxiliary to structural, deploy repair parties.”
“Erm, sir… we haven’t actually received any damage yet.”
“I know. But we probably will. Ensign Lee! Dispersal Pattern Beta.”
“Dispersal patterns are for quantum mines, sir”
“Really?”
“Yes sir. We’re not fitted with mines.”
“Right. Well, if we were fitted with them, deploy them in Dispersal Pattern Beta.”
“Yes sir.”
“Right, I think that’s clicked all the buttons. Oh wait a minute, what’s this one with the little picture of the starship and the arrows coming out of it? That looks useful, do that.”
“That’s… Abandon Ship, Captain.”
“Really?”
“Yes.”
“Oh well, I’ve clicked it now. Off we go!”

And so it was that USS Hope II did a couple more days of Duty Officer missions before venturing into space again…

Posted by Zoso at 5:15 pm

Player of a murdered game, owner of a murdered characer, I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next

coh, games, waffle, zoso 2 Comments »

Van Hemlock tweets: “Good grief. “#AvengeCoH” hashtags… seriously? What is wrong with you people?” And of course it is a touch on the histrionic side, but then this is a comic book universe, so arch-enemies and pledges of vengeance aren’t entirely out of character. According to narrative imperative, a group of orphan players should now travel the world, ceaselessly training in MMOG-programming techniques in mountain-top monasteries (that nevertheless have excellent broadband internet infrastructure) before returning to civilisation in the guise of The Group Of People Seeking To Exact Satisfation For A Previous Event (note to editor: there must be a catchier name), unleashing a new superhero MMOG of hitherto unimagined quality, and attracting all existing NCSoft subscribers away from their previous games. There’ll be a climactic confrontation with the board of NCSoft, probably on the window ledge of a skyscraper in the middle of a thunderstorm (it’ll need to be quite a bg window ledge, perhaps with a conference table and lots of chairs), who will ultimately be vanquished, and good will have triumphed.

Until one of The Group Of People Seeking To Exact Satisfaction For A Previous Event turns out to be a robot from the future, and they all meet evil clones of themselves from a parallel universe, and their powers are drained and absorbed by an entity of pure energy from Dimension Z, and they get framed for crimes they didn’t commit and the public turn on them, and then they’re all killed, for a couple of weeks, until the deaths are retconned and then they get cancelled. Or something.

Posted by Zoso at 11:42 am

Sometimes it is better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness

games, world of tanks, zoso 3 Comments »

Since they added British tanks to World of Tanks a month or so back, I’ve mostly been playing those. I started out focusing on the medium tech tree, as most of my current garage is occupied by Soviet heavy tanks and tank destroyers, and the Brits eventually get the iconic Centurion. The early tiers always fly past quickly enough, but things bogged down in Tier IV with the Covenanter (also known as the A13 Mk III (Covenanter Mk I (Cruiser Mk V)), presumably as part of a cunning disinformation operation to make the Germans think we had a lot more tanks than we really did by assigning them at least three designations). At that point I decided to start on the British heavy tech tree for a bit of variety, and to make the most out of researching common tank components; before too long I made it up to the Tier V Churchill heavy tank, unlocked the option of the 6-pounder gun for it, and also upgraded the Covenanter to a Tier V Crusader. Looking at the stats the Crusader is a nippy tank that relies on speed and manoeuvrability, firing and rapidly moving, not really my forte, whereas the Churchill ought to be a nice, solid heavy, comparable to the Soviet KV-1, more suited to my preferred technique of slowly trundling forward, pausing occasionally to shoot stuff.

Something rather odd has happened in practise, though. I think my Churchill tank is cursed. I’ve outlined my theories on the random outcomes of World of Tanks battles before, and my overall win rate continues to bobble along around 52%. In the Churchill, over the past week I’ve been on the winning side in 5 out of 21 battles, 24%. I’ve seen some amazing performances, spanning the whole gamut of losing. There were battles where the team decided to demonstrate that it *is* possible for a pick-up group to display incredible precision and co-ordination, by carefully lining up in single file and one-by-one advancing towards concealed enemy emplacements, each one pointlessly exploding just in time for the next lamb to be slaughtered. There were road-rage incidents where two or three players collided during the Parisian traffic chaos of the start of the round and hurled expletives in chat (one of the joys of a multilingual swearing filter is that even if you can’t understand Italian, Polish or Czech, frequent bursts of asterisks convey the general tone of a message), rapidly followed by shells; when your own side are that stupid, even I was rooting for the enemy. There were battles that seemed to be going well, our team having a numerical advantage and closing on the enemy base, until our opposite flank crumbled and the dreaded friendly base occupation bar appeared, our heavy tanks having no chance of getting back in time to defend it. There were battles where my tank was destroyed but our team still had eleven other tanks compared to six enemy, a position we couldn’t possibly lose from, so I’d log out and play another tank, only to discover on reviewing the results later that, sure enough, we had managed to throw away the lead.

On occasion, at the start of a battle, someone will give a stirring pep talk. Something that brings to mind Henry V at the siege of Harfleur or Francois Pienaar reciting Invictus, something like “come on guyz dont suck my last 4 teams have been loosers lets win this”. Hearing that you ponder what connection there might have been between those last four teams, what common thread could have run through them causing those losses… I don’t think the results are entirely down to me, though, over the same timeframe I’ve fought five matches in a KV-1, won four of them, and in 12 rounds on the Crusader I’ve been on the winning side nine times. Maybe that’s it, instead of the usual 50/50 allocation of luck, the Crusader has nicked half of the Churchill’s. Or maybe it’s just a quirk of random outcomes, especially over comparatively small sample sizes. Onwards and (all being well) upwards!

Posted by Zoso at 3:26 pm
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